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How to get rid of skin tags: A practical guide

Skin tags, those benign growths that often linger on the skin, can be a nuisance for many. Though generally harmless, they may cause discomfort or aesthetic concerns, prompting individuals to seek safe removal options. In this guide, we’ll explore effective methods on how to remove skin tags, what causes skin tags and whether it is possible to remove skin tags overnight, while emphasising safety and efficacy.

What causes skin tags?

Skin tags, medically termed acrochordons, are soft, flesh-coloured growths typically found dangling from the skin. It is thought that as many as 60% of adults will develop skin tags at some stage of their life.

Key points to note:

There are several factors that may contribute to skin tags developing, although the precise cause of skin tags remains uncertain.

Skin tags are generally more of a cosmetic annoyance than a serious health problem. They can sometimes, however, cause discomfort and/or itching. If this is the case, and skin tags are impacting your quality of life or if you have a skin tag that bleeds or that develops into lots of skin tags, seek advice from your GP.

What can skin tags tell us about our health?

While skin tags themselves are typically not dangerous, they can give great insight to different processes in the body. Skin tags have been associated with conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidaemia.

Studies have found connections between skin tags and an increased risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Higher blood pressure and a higher levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker in the blood) were found in people with skin tags compared to those without skin tags.

There is a strong association between skin tags and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Although the specific underlying mechanisms are not yet known, both skin tags and PCOS are linked with hormonal imbalances, obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

Metabolic dysfunction refers to abnormalities or problems in the body’s metabolic processes. These include how your body breaks down food for energy, manages nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and regulates hormones such as insulin.

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If you would like to learn more, check out our guide on how to support your metabolic heath

Emerging research suggests there may be a possible trend between thyroid disease and skin tags, but more evidence is needed.

A photo of a boy's neck wearing a blue and white striped t-shirt. He has acanthosis nigricans which is characterised by darker pigmented skin

Skin tags may also coincide with acanthosis nigricans, which is a skin presentation characterised by dark, thickened patches of skin, often with a velvety texture. These patches also usually appear in skin folds and creases, such as the neck, armpits, groin, and back of the neck. Acanthosis nigricans are also often associated with insulin resistance, obesity, hormonal disorders, and certain medications.

Effective Treatment Options

Although skin tags are generally benign and may not need removal, individuals may opt for removal for cosmetic reasons or if they cause irritation. If you are considering having skin tags removed, there are a few things to consider when choosing effective treatment options.

Consult a medical professional:

Seeking professional guidance ensures safe and effective removal. If you are concerned about a suspected skin tag your GP should be able to evaluate your skin to determine if there are any worrying features that might warrant removal for clinical reasons. Removal of lesions for cosmetic reasons is usually not covered by the NHS. If NHS coverage isn’t available but you want to get rid of your skin tags for cosmetic reasons, you might wish to consider consulting with a private medical provider.

Skin tags may be removed by:

  • Surgical Excision: Skin tags can be surgically removed using scissors or a scalpel.
  • Cauterisation: This procedure involves burning or freezing the skin tag for removal.
  • Cryosurgery: Liquid nitrogen is applied to freeze off the skin tag.

Post-Removal Considerations:

After removal, it’s important for individuals to be aware of possible side effects such as scarring or darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation) at the site where the skin tag was, especially for those with darker skin tones.

Home Remedies:

The NHS advises against home skin tag removal unless advised by your GP. The internet offers numerous home remedies for skin tags, like using duct tape, tying with dental floss or applying various substances like oregano oil, tea tree oil, and others to dry out or irritate the skin. Sites may also share various techniques on “how to get rid of skin tags overnight”. However, it’s important to note that these remedies are not recommended, as they can lead to an increased risk of scarring, bleeding and infection.

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Our clinical lead and GP, Dr. Claire Thomas, has seen several unfortunate incidents where people have tried to remove skin tags at home. In some cases this has led to unpleasant infections, which can be especially nasty when a mole has been misidentified as skin tag.

There are also differential diagnoses for skin tags (possible alternative conditions that can present similarly).

Differential diagnoses may include:

  • Warts (verrucae): These are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and can sometimes resemble skin tags, but they usually have a rougher texture.

A close-up photo of a wart with some surrounding hair and skin.

  • Seborrheic keratosis: These are noncancerous growths that can vary in colour and may (rarely) be mistaken for skin tags, but they often have a more waxy or stuck-on appearance.

A close up photo of seborrheic keratosis and its surrounding skin.

  • Moles (naevi): While moles can differ in appearance, some smaller or flat moles may resemble skin tags.

A photo of back of a man's head. He has a large mole near his hairline under his ear.

  • Neurofibromas: These are benign tumors of nerve tissue and can, in some instances, resemble skin tags, particularly if they occur in clusters.

A close-up photo of an arm with several neurofibromas, all skin-coloured.

Can skin tags be prevented?

It’s complicated…while there is nothing that will 100% safeguard against getting skin tags, there are steps that may reduce their likelihood of occurring:

It’s always recommended to have any new or changing skin growths evaluated by a healthcare professional to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, as some skin conditions may require medical attention or monitoring.

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Reviewed by:

Anna Keeble MA BA Head of Content and Wellbeing Expert

Dr Claire Marie Thomas MRCGP DFSRH DTMH DipNLP MBChB BMedSci Medical Expert

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Lois Leclerc

Lois is a Content Writer at Evergreen Life. She trained in Nutritional Therapy at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is currently completing her MSc in Clinical Nutrition. She is passionate about the influence diet and lifestyle choices can have on health, wellbeing and longevity.